Matchweek one: 17-21 September

Review all the build-up, games and reaction in the first week of the UEFA Champions League.

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by UEFA.com newsdesk - 16/07/2012

The return of the world's greatest club competition is upon us. Who knows what will happen over the next nine months, but you can be assured great football and moments of drama aplenty as the best clubs in Europe go head to head for the UEFA Champions League trophy.

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Today’s press conferences are under way in Zagreb, with Málaga coach Manuel Pellegrini and Milan's Massimiliano Allegri also addressing the media this lunchtime. The pick of Tuesday's ties looks to be Manchester City's trip to Real Madrid; José Mourinho speaks to the world's press at 17.00 this evening, with Roberto Mancini to follow at 19.15. Stay with UEFA.com's live UEFA Champions League coverage for all the latest.

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Christian Châtelet in Paris
UEFA.com French newsdesk
Dynamo Kyiv forward Andriy Shevchenko has had his say on PSG as the Ukrainian side prepare to travel to the French capital for their opening Group A game on Tuesday. A UEFA Champions League winner under PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti during his time at Milan, Shevchenko is sure the Ligue 1 outfit should have lofty ambitions.

"PSG's summer signings were more than good," he said. "With them, PSG will be aiming to lift the Champions League. I know Carlo very well and he will need a bit of time but he will build a good team. Carlo is good at improving a team. We have shared so many wins in the Champions League and Serie A. Those are unforgettable moments as he made us winners. [Zlatan] Ibrahimović can score and create important goals. Carlo is a great friend of mine but I am a fan of Dynamo and I will be supporting them."

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Elvir Islamović at Stadion Maksimir
Dinamo Zagreb coach Ante Čačić has been speaking to the throng of journalists here at the stadium ahead of the visit of Porto on Tuesday evening. "We are facing a very strong team," he said. "Our goal is to be much better than last season. We have reasons to be positive as the team has stayed together for the new season, we are in very good form, we have not lost for a long time and many of my players have experience of playing in the Champions League group stage last year.


"I have a long list of players and everyone but Ivan Tomečak is ready for the match. so that's good news. I still have some doubts about the starting XI but I know the way we will play tomorrow. I think that avoiding defeat would be a good result for us."

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Berend Scholten from Diest
UEFA.com Belgian/Dutch correspondent
Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad has been speaking to Milan's Urby Emanuelson ahead of the visit of Anderlecht to the San Siro on Tuesday evening. Emanuelson is particularly relishing reuniting with Anderlecht coach John van den Brom. "My relationship with him is very good," he said. "I look forward to seeing him again. He way my coach in the Ajax youth department and with the second team we became champions under him. Van den Brom is friendly and a good trainer, who always wants to play good football."

Anderlecht's Dutch defender Bram Nuytinck, meanwhile, believes Les Mauves et Blancs could spring a surprise. "We have got a chance," he told Sporza television. "Everyone is happy to be playing in the Champions League and wants to give it everything. With our qualities we can make it very difficult for Milan. Without [Zlatan] Ibrahimović, [Antonio] Cassano and [Clarence] Seedorf it is a very different Milan than last year."

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Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Andrés Iniesta tell UEFA.com about life under Tito Vilanova, last seaon's semi-final elimination and the extra motivation of a decider held at the scene of their 2011 triumph, Wembley.

 

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Paul Bryan in Madrid
UEFA.com Spanish newsdesk
After just one win, a draw and two defeats – the latest of which came away to Sevilla on Saturday – alarm bells are ringing in the Spanish capital as the press mull over Real Madrid's worst start to a Liga season in 11 years.


Daily newspaper El Mundo sets the tone, warning that coach José Mourinho "is thinking about giving a good jolt to his squad by ringing the changes for Tuesday's encounter against Manchester City". Mourinho claimed "I have no team" in his post-match press conference at the weekend and was annoyed that his side again conceded from a set piece, something he has been at pains to put right since the campaign began.


"Dead-ball situations have been like an open tap in Madrid's defence with goalkeeper Iker Casillas conceding from such situations against Valencia, Getafe and Sevilla something inconceivable and childish for a team of this level," added El Mundo. City coach Roberto Mancini will no doubt have taken note.

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Alberto Infantes Sanchez at La Rosaleda Stadium
Málaga coach Mauricio Pellegrini has held his press conference ahead of his team's UEFA Champions League bow against Zenit. "We have to be very careful with our opponents in this group stage as all of them are difficult," said the former centre-back. "If we think one of them could be easier than another, it would be a mistake. The opponent will be Zenit tomorrow but the other two teams in the group [Milan and Anderlecht] are difficult as well. We are capable of winning tomorrow and then we will think about the next match."

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Paolo Menicucci in Milan
UEFA.com Italian newsdesk

According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini invited a handful of his team-mates to a dinner at his house – officially for the birthday of his wife Paolo – but also to talk about the Rossoneri's Serie A travails. A 1-0 loss to Atalanta on Saturday means Milan have lost their first two home league fixtures for the first time since 1930/31.

"Milan have a little more than 24 hours to find the 'eye of the tiger' that [Massimiliano] Allegri wants," writes the pink newspaper. "The team need to overcome their fear of playing at San Siro, one of their biggest enemies at the moment. The electric atmosphere of the Champions League could help along with the likely return of [Riccardo] Montolivo in midfield."

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Steffen Potter en route to Dortmund
Taking the train from Frankfurt to western Germany for European nights has become a welcome routine for me and I am looking forward to tomorrow's UEFA Champions League match between Dortmund and Ajax. To get me in the mood a couple of football fans on the train have already started singing. Mind you, they are not Dortmund supporters but fans of Köln, the club that was relegated last season and tonight play St Pauli in the second tier. "Erster Fußballclub Köln," they shout, before attempting to get the train staff to chime in. In vain.

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Paul Bryan in Madrid
UEFA.com Spanish newsdesk
What a difference a month makes. Expecting the worst after several stars departed the club ahead of the 2012/13 campaign, Málaga fans have seen their team respond by reaching the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the first time and posting their best start to a Liga campaign.

The goals and experience of the likes of Santi Cazorla, José Rondón and Ruud van Nistelrooy may have gone, but those players are quickly being forgotten with new signing Javier Saviola making waves at Los Boquerones with a goal and an assist in the 3-1 weekend win at home to Levante.

"Europe awaits the best Málaga in history," boasts Diario Sur as it previews tomorrow night's encounter with Zenit. "Adverse situations can serve to bring out the best in a team and the unity that exists within Málaga can now be seen out on the pitch: the teacher, driver and psychologist," coach Manuel Pellegrini.

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Alberto Infantes Sanchez at La Rosaleda Stadium
A new signing at Málaga, striker Javier Saviola has enjoyed a positive start to life at his new club. Now the former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Benfica forward is gearing up for his first European outing with his new side, against a Zenit outfit which has been bolstered by a couple of high-profile signings of their own. Speaking in the pre-match press conference, Saviola admitted he was relishing the occasion.


"The Champions League is one of the best competitions in the world," he said, "and Zenit are a good team. The first match of the group stage is significant, it is very important to start with a win. Zenit are stronger now thanks to their recent signings, but we have to be confident to win the match. We won't focus on Hulk. Zenit are physically very strong, competitive and make it difficult to score. They have important players, but not only Hulk - they are a team."


Saviola was keen to stress that his side are aiming high, despite it being their first group stage appearance. "We have the same mentality as the other three teams to qualify. We have to think about what we can do together as a team, we have to win and bring happiness to the people. I saw the play-off matches against Panathinaikos on TV, I saw the togetherness of my team-mates."

 

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Elvir Islamović at Stadion Maksimir
Few players could be better equipped to take on Porto in the UEFA Champions League than Dinamo Zagreb defender Tonel. An academy graduate and reserve player at Tuesday's opponents, he also played nearly 120 league games with rivals Sporting. The 32-year-old spoke to the gathered media in the press conference ahead of the match and warned of the challenge that awaits the hosts.


"We don't play Real Madrid like last season, but Porto are also a top team and have excellent players," he said. "I am sure it will be a fantastic atmopshere and I expect a good game tomorrow. Porto have long list of top players, if someone is absent they will find a replacement of equally high quality. I expect a very strong Porto team."


Tonel emphasised that Dinamo Zagreb do have a good chance of success: "I expect a difficult game for us, but I also expect a difficult game for Porto," he said. "Their problem could be having had a couple of weeks without a competitive game. Their players were playing with national teams around the world and that is not good for a training rhythm."

 

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Alessandro Massimo at Milanello
Despite a disappointing start to their Serie A campaign – two defeats and one win – Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri is in a confident mood ahead of the UEFA Champions League opener against Anderlecht: "At the moment what we have done to win has not been enough and we have to start doing enough tomorrow," Allegri said. "Anderlecht have experience and history in Europe, so we will need a good balance of quality and patience.

"We are not pleased with the bad start, but we have to think positively. We have to focus on the game and concentrate. I'm confident because I believe my team can play a great game tomorrow, starting the new Champions League campaign in the best way possible."

Defender Daniele Bonera said the team was ready to overturn their poor start: "This is an opportunity for us to show our real identity. We are not this team that has lost two home games. It's a hard time so we must be extra motivated to change the situation and the pessimism around the club. The team has the quality to achieve its goals."

 

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Alex O'Henley in Glasgow
A conversation with Sir Alex Ferguson has lifted Celtic manager Neil Lennon's spirits following the Hoops' 2-1 defeat at Saint Johnstone on Saturday. The Manchester United manager was back in his native city at the weekend on family business and bumped into his Celtic counterpart on Sunday. Though the exact details of their conversation were not revealed, Lennon told UEFA.com that his chat with Ferguson had given him plenty of food for thought ahead of Celtic's Group G opener at home to Benfica on Wednesday.

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Elvir Islamović at Stadion Maksimir
With excitement building ahead of Dinamo Zagreb's UEFA Champions League opener against Porto, the Croatian Post have created a postal stamp dedicated to the occasion. The stamp will be in use in Croatian post offices for the entirety of the matchday, so everyone that sends a letter or parcel tomorrow will get this special stamp on it.

 

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Paris Ayiomamitis at Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium
José Holebas has declared that Olympiacos are ready for the challenge awaiting them against visiting Schalke tomorrow, despite a shortage of experience in their young side.


"We lack experience but we are well prepared for tomorrow's match because we have quality," Holebas said at the Olympiacos press conference. "Last season, Olof Mellberg [now of Villarreal] and Avraam Papadopoulos [injured] added a lot of experience to our defence. Our young players have great quality but lack experience - hopefully Vasilis Torosidis will help them with this.


"Schalke are strong both defensively and in attack. It will be a very difficult game for us tomorrow but we have already played three games this season, so we are ready. We began last season with a Champions League group stage match, which proved costly."

 

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Steffen Potter en route to Dortmund
Philipp Lahm is convinced Bayern can once again reach the final of the UEFA Champions League: "I know that with this team, with this club, I will get another chance," the Bayern captain said. "Whether it will work out then is a different question. With our squad, I see big opportunities; we have the potential to go far. We must not ruin that by continuing to discuss last season."


The 93-time German international added: "We have huge goals and, in our group, reaching the round of 16 is a must. We want to return to where we have been twice before, and then win it. Barcelona are favourites, followed by Real Madrid. We are next. We have returned as one of Europe's top teams over recent years."

 

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The kick-off to the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League group stage is fast approaching. Get the full lowdown on all of the clubs involved, learn some fascinating facts and get up to speed on the records and history of Europe's elite club competition with our new Statistics Handbook. View or download it here.

 

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Marcos Prieto at Valdebebas
Despite a defeat in Saturday's Liga clash with Sevilla, Madrid coach José Mourinho has said that there will be few alterations to his team for the match against English champions Manchester City. "The starting lineup won't be very different and it will be the best side possible, to face an opponent full of top-level players. I am the first one responsible [for the disappointing start to the league campaign]. In my teams, when we win we all win and when we lose I am the first one responsible."

 

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Paris Ayiomamitis at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium
Since his arrival in Greece this summer, Olympiacos coach Leonardo Jardim has displayed a somewhat shy and reserved demeanour. Today's press conference was no exception. The Portuguese coach, who arrived 15 minutes late, retained his calm and collected stance. Perhaps that is the reason why large swathes of the Greek football press have yet to give their verdict on the new coach. However, you can never judge a book by its cover and in football its the results that count. So far Jardim has delivered results, as the defending Greek champions top the domestic league after three rounds. Perhaps still waters run deep.

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Aurélien Sagnier at Parc des Princes
We are a few minutes away from the PSG press conference, where coach Carlo Ancelotti and star forward Zlatan Ibrahimović will face the press. Rumor has it defenders Mamadou Sakho and Gregory van der Wiel are out, while summer recruit Thiago Silva could play his first match. All will soon be revealed.

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Vassiliki Papantonopoulou at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium
On Monday morning Olympiacos conducted their last training session before their opening UEFA Champions League match, against Schalke tomorrow. Giannis Maniatis, who had suffered a right calf injury during Greece's match against Lithuania last Tuesday, has recovered fully and is expected to be in Leonardo Jardim's starting lineup. The Portuguese coach also included Pablo Contreras, who had missed Olympiacos' recent matches due to a groin injury, and full-back Vassilis Torossidis, rested for Olympiacos' away league 2-1 victory over PAS Giannina.

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Marcos Prieto at Valdebebas
Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira is under no illusions regarding the enormity of the task which awaits his side tomorrow. The German international is also preparing to go toe-to-toe with former FC Barcelona powerhouse Yaya Touré, a player he rates as one of the best in the world. "We are always motivated for the Champions League and tomorrow will be a great challenge for us," he said. "Yaya Touré is one of the best players in the world in his position but we mustn't focus on one player. Manchester City are a very good team with great players. Our group contains four teams of the highest quality and I'm glad to be among them. I expect every game in this group to be very close."

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Paolo Menicucci in Milan 
Riccardo Montolivo has not been included in Milan's squad for their UEFA Champions League Group C opener against Anderlecht. The 27-year-old midfielder, who joined from ACF Fiorentina this summer, has failed to recover from a thigh injury sustained earlier this month. Brazilian duo Robinho and Pato will also miss out due to muscular problems.

 

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Vassiliki Papantonopoulou at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium
Schalke's trip to Olympiacos is a fixture which is sure to tug at the heartstrings of Greek international defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who began his career with the Piraeus side in 2007, before making his Bundesliga debut three years later. "I'm very happy to be back where I started my career," said the 20-year-old. "It's a balanced group but I didn't want to be drawn with Olympiacos. I hope we both make it through. Olympiacos have some of the greatest supporters in Europe and they will definitely help their side, but we will have to concentrate on our own game."

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Aurélien Sagnier at Parc des Princes
PSG return to the UEFA Champions League under a weight of expectation but high-profile summer signing Zlatan Ibrahimović was grounded in cautious humility when he spoke to the media ahead of their Group A opener against Dynamo Kyiv. "It will be a huge experience for the club, as well as for the players and the fans," he said. "It's the biggest tournament you can play in. The Champions League is also a very testing experience and we should not underestimate any of our opponents. The group will not be easy and whether we are favourites or not, the most important thing is to get the best results.

 

"The players are very hungry and we'll use the experience we gain from each game to improve. Kyiv are a very strong team with a great history. They have lots of talented players, many of whom I met at EURO. It will not be an easy game, but we have home advantage and will do our best to win."

 

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Paolo Menicucci in Milan
Anderlecht coach John Van den Brom has played down the importance of tomorrow's Group C curtain-raiser against Milan. "We need to show great commitment if we want to get a decent result. The match is not a crucial one, however," he said. Meanwhile, experienced defender Olivier Deschacht, who has spent over a decade with the Brussels club, opened the door for some of Anderlecht's youthful ranks to make a name for themselves at San Siro. "Not everyone has played in this competition before," said the 31-year-old. "For the younger players, it will be a great chance to show their quality."

 

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Elvir Islamović at Stadion Maksimir
Far from lamenting Hulk's departure, Porto midfielder Lucho González recognises the club's "famous" capacity to generate big profits from player sales. "Hulk was excellent for us and I wish him all the best for the future," he said. "It is normal for players to come and go and Porto is famous for its transfer dealings." Vítor Pereira's side will also be shorn of Brazilian midfielder Fernando, but González is confident his void can be filled with competence, adding: "Fernando is a very important player for us but I am convinced we have the quality in our midfield to cover for him."

 

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Steffen Potter in Dortmund
Ajax coach Frank de Boer insists his side will not abandon their footballing principles in an attempt to oust Group D rivals Borussia Dortmund. "I always tell my players that we do not have to win at any cost. The main thing is to focus on our game. No matter how Dortmund form their midfield, we will try to play between their lines," said the former Netherlands international. "Dortmund have a huge work ethic, they are very energetic, and they play attractive attacking football. We have a very young side which still has to gain a lot of experience at this level but of course we still want to win."

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Vassiliki Papantonopoulou at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium
Diminutive Schalke midfielder Lewis Holtby is ready to rise to the occasion when his side contend with a raucous reception inside Olympiacos' Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium. "They will be desperate to win in front of their own fans. We know all about the hostile atmosphere but we are ready for the challenge," he commented. The 21-year-old will also be celebrating his birthday and said scoring the winning goal would be "the icing on the cake". Meanwhile, team-mate Benedikt Höwedes struck an upbeat note when addressing Schalke's chances, adding: "We have worked very hard to get to this stage. We are in good shape and enter the game with confidence."

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Marcos Prieto at Valdebebas
Manchester City coach Roberto Mancini has promised the Premier League champions will not hold back when they face what he calls "the best team in the world". "It will be a great match and both teams have fantastic players," said the 47-year-old. "With our mentality it will be impossible to defend for the whole match. We need to attack as well and play good football. We know the group is difficult and we want to start well." Midfielder David Silva, who today penned a new five-year contact with the Citizens, added: "I want to continue growing and Manchester City is the right place to do so. The team is very motivated to play well and collect three points."

 

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That is all from the blog today. Make sure you return tomorrow morning as our dedicated team of reporters continue to bring you all the latest news in the build-up to a mouth-watering fest of opening group stage matches.

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So, 122 days after Didier Drogba's penalty ended Bayern's dreams by capturing Chelsea's maiden UEFA Champions League title, the race for the 2013 crown begins in earnest today with the start of the group stage. We'll be there throughout the build-up, bringing you all the latest news, views and interviews from across Europe.

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The financial might of PSG will be flexing their muscles on the big stage tonight, while newcomers Málaga and Montpellier are preparing to make their group stage bows. Former UEFA Champions League winners Dortmund and Ajax go head to head but it is the other Group D fixture that is really whetting the appetite as English title holders Manchester City travel to out-of-sorts Real Madrid.

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José Mourinho and Roberto Mancini last night mused on their side chances, the Italian a little later than advertised after Manchester City's flight to Madrid was delayed. Read what they had to say here:

 

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According to our Spanish expert Graham Hunter, it is perhaps Barcelona, not Real Madrid, who could provide Spain's best hopes this term:

 

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Today's press conferences will soon be under way, with Mircea Lucescu first up at 11.30CET as he muses on Shakhtar Donetsk's meeting with newcomers Nordsjælland. Roberto Di Matteo will be attracting the media gaze at Stamford Bridge at 17.30CET as Chelsea make their final preparations ahead of the opening match of their defence at home to Juventus. We'll bring you the headlines as they happen.

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Vassiliki Papantonopoulou in Athens (@UEFAcomVassP)
On this day, ten years ago, Olympiacos produced their biggest ever victory in the UEFA Champions League by beating Bayer 04 Leverkusen 6-2 – the team that only four months before had reached the competition's final. So, it's only natural that the Greece press are a touch nostalgic today, as Olympiacos take on another German team, FC Schalke 04.

"Do it like Djole!", urges newspaper GoalNews, which features front page photos of that match's hero, Predrag Djordjević, and the team's current leading marksman, Rafik Djebbour. SportDay reminds its readers that Olympiacos haven't been gracious hosts to other German teams, with SV Werder Bremen, Hertha BSC Berlin and Borussia Dortmund all getting a bitter taste of what it's like to play at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.

LiveSport focuses on the plans of Leonardo Jardim and predicts "different tricks". Judging from yesterday's training session, the newspaper says that the Portuguese coach could yet spring some surprise inclusions in order to catch Schalke off guard.

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Olympiacos midfielder Ariel Ibagaza discusses the start of another European season, life under new coach Leonardo Jardim and the need for a bit of good fortune in the group stage.

 

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French newsdesk:
Montpellier daily Midi Libre says the local team and French champion will have to lift their game if they want to start with a bang against Arsenal tonight: "Boosted by 30,000 buoyant fans, and despite a poor start in the French league [three defeats in five games], MHSC have what it takes to take down their prestigious guests. The more technically able Arsenal will probably control the game. The French champions will have to chase the ball but they are ready to unleash their strengths on an Arsenal defence that still need a few adjustments to be on the top of their game."

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Bogdan Buga in Kyiv
Sport-Express in Ukraine says Dynamo Kyiv have arrived in Paris in high spirits after a 3-1 home win against FC Karpaty Lviv and with a big dossier of information on their next – and higher quality – opponents in the UEFA Champions League. Yuri Semin's assistants Serhiy Rebrov and Boris Ignatiev compiled it after attending two recent PSG league games.

There is good and bad team news, it adds: "The Bilo-syni have travelled to the French capital without Ayila Yussuf who had injured his knee again while Marco Ruben and Artem Milevskiy remain in Ukraine due to throat pains. On the other hand, Semin can call on veteran Olexandr Shovkovskiy, who has recovered after shoulder injury."

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Ian Holyman in Montpellier (@UEFAcomIanH):
A muggy start to the day on the Mediterranean coast where, despite a stuttering start to the Ligue 1 season, the mood is upbeat. In Monday evening's pre-match press conference, Montpellier coach René Girard was asked, after winning the French title, what his next dream was: "To be able to swim like Michael Phelps," he quipped. "I swim like a stone. If I fall into the water 250m from the coast, I'm a dead man!"

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David Crossan en route to Zagreb (@UEFAcomDavidC)
Having battled through three qualifying rounds, Dinamo will want more to show for it than the commemorative stamp my colleague Elvir Islamović mentioned yesterday. Unbeaten in 33 matches under coach Ante Čačić, the Croatian champions take on their Portuguese counterparts who have proven time and again down the years their capacity to regenerate after big-name sales. With Hulk gone, others will step up.

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Alex O'Henley in Glasgow (@UEFAcomAlexO):
Ahead of Celtic's Group G opener against SL Benfica The Herald newspaper has spoken to Scottish coach Ian Cathro who’s currently on the staff at Primeira Liga side Rio Ave and the Dundonian wants Neil Lennon's side to take a positive approach against the Portuguese giants.

"Benfica have a responsibility to play in a certain way; it's about how Celtic will play," said Cathro who moved to Portugal earlier this summer after spells as a youth coach with Dundee United FC and the Scottish Football Association. "The obvious way is to play deep and try to contain Benfica. Try to protect key zones and have one or two players who can provide an outlet, maybe a player who can dribble for 15 or 20 yards and win some fouls.

"That's the way most people expect Celtic to play. If they do that, they might get something and people [in Europe] will continue to expect the same from Scottish teams – trying to cling on to the glamour of the Champions League. It would be brilliant to see a Scottish team add to that glamour, to go and play against them, be more adventurous in where Benfica start possession. If they start with the ball in your half, with their front four, you might hold out, but you're never going to control the game.

"Why not try to control the phase before that? How good would it be to see Celtic win 3-0 and have 60% of possession? To really make a statement? That's what Scottish football needs. You can play both ways and still lose to Benfica."

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Philipp Lahm and Mario Mandžukić will be squeezing into the press room at Bayern's Säbener Strasse training ground at 13.00CET. Croatia striker Mandžukić has scored in all four of his appearances for the club since his summer switch from VfL Wolfsburg, five goals in all – one to consider for Fantasy, perhaps. Have you finalised your side? Click here to do so now.

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Ian Holyman in Montpellier (@UEFAcomIanH):
Speaking to L'Equipe, Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby is taking nothing for granted despite his club facing out-of-form French champions Montpellier, beaten three times in their opening five Ligue 1 games. "They're still a good team that plays good football. It's going to be an open game with both sides trying to play. We're the only big team in the group, but anything can happen over the course of 90 minutes. We mustn't go to Montpellier thinking that victory is simply there for the taking."

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Steffen Potter in Frankfurt (@UEFAcomSteffenP)
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says nothing less than a victory will do for Borussia Dortmund tonight. "For an opening-game win against Ajax, coach Jürgen Klopp will choose an attacking formation. For the first time this season, superstars Mario Götze and Marco Reus will both be in the starting XI and are expected to work their midfield magic against Ajax. In an incredibly tough group with Real Madrid and Manchester City a home win against the Dutch champions is a must," the daily says.

"The biggest stars at Ajax are sitting on the bench: Coach Frank de Boer, 42, assistant coach Dennis Bergkamp, 43, and general manager Marc Overmars, 39."

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Shakhtar Donetsk captain Darijo Srna will accompany coach Mircea Lucescu at the official pre-match press conference, which starts at 11.30CET.

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Paolo Menicucci in Milan (@UEFAcomPaoloM):
Corriere dello Sport
carries an interview with former Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi, who hung up his boots in the summer and is now a coach in the Rossoneri youth system. "Milan and Zenit should advance from this group and I hope Milan will finish first as it's always a good advantage for the next stage," he said. "However the group is balanced. I didn't expect Málaga to be as good as they are right now.

"I will not be at San Siro as I miss it a lot. Sooner or later I will go back but I need more time. Milan have not started well this season but only because so many players changed during the summer; you have to give them and [Massimiliano] Allegri time because the squad is good."

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Steffen Potter in Frankfurt (@UEFAcomSteffenP):
Frankfurter Rundschau
focus on Schalke's Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who will play his former club Olympiacos tonight. "I didn't want to play against them," Papadopoulos says. Ten days ago the defender was part of the Greek national team playing in the stadium in Piraeus, but he still does not expect a warm welcome from fans of Olympiacos, the club he joined aged 15. "The Olympiacos supporters will not care at all that I used to play for them. They always create a cauldron to push their team to a win."

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Türker Tozar in Istanbul:
Fatih Terim will launch the sixth UEFA Champions League campaign of his career when Galatasaray face Manchester Unitedat Old Trafford tomorrow. Terim, who guided the Istanbul giants to UEFA Cup victory in 1999/2000, has never taken his teams beyond the group stage.

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Marcos Prieto in Madrid:
Realmadrid.com
reminds everyone that the Merengues have won nearly every opening UEFA Champions League meeting at the Santiago Bernabéu since the 1962/63 season. The figures show 40 wins, two draws and not a single defeat.

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French newsdesk:
PSG
are back in the UEFA Champions League at home tonight against Dynamo Kyiv after an eight-year hiatus. The capital's daily newspaper Le Parisien islooking forward to the game: "For the general public, it is just another game. One more game against Dynamo Kyiv, a good team with no special prestige. But for PSG fans, it is the end of an absence that has lasted too long."

PSG's last UEFA Champions League game was a 3-1 defeat to PFC CSKA Moskva on 7 December 2004: "An eternity in terms of football. Tonight, PSG is back in the most prestigious of European club competitions. It is a bit like meeting an old girlfriend that you've not seen for ages. Impatience is mixed with excitement and curiosity."

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Elvir Islamović in Zagreb (@UEFAcomElvirI):
The Croatian newspapers are all full of optimism ahead of the match against Porto. Some of them are asking for the recipe for victory from players like Edin Mujčin, Tomislav Rukavina and Silvio Marić, who defeated Porto 3-1 in the group stage in the 1998/99 season. Sportske novosti have Dinamo Zagreb coach Ante Čačić and his quote on the cover: 'We will score two goals and break all records!'.

Daily 24sata (pictured below) claims: "Porto are not Real Madrid", and add, just for good measure: 'Mission possible'. In last season's opening match against Real Madrid CF, forward Ante Rukavina missed a gilt-edged chance. This time he is convinced it will be different as he promised Sportske novosti: "If I manage to create such a chance again, I will score. Real were lucky, Porto will not be."

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Andy James in Dortmund (@UEFAcomAndyJ):
Just arrived in Dortmund for the first part of what promises to be a fantastic double header of UEFA Champions League action in Germany this week.

First up is this evening's Group D opener between two former winners of this competition, Dortmund and Ajax Amsterdam, at the famous BVB Stadion Dortmund.

The game holds a special significance for me. I've lived in Germany for over six years and have been eager to experience the famous Gelbe Wand (English: Yellow Wall) – Dortmund's 25,000-strong South Stand – ever since I arrived. Curiously, given that I've been to various other stadiums around the country, this will be my first time and I've been looking forward to it ever since the draw was made.

What makes tonight's game even more of a prospect is the visitors. Ajax won the first UEFA Champions League final I watched in 1995 and, though the days of Jari Litmanen, Patrick Kluivert and Danny Blind may be long gone, seeing the Dutch giants in action is sure to bring back a lot of fond memories.

Indeed, many people will be looking at tonight's other Group D clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City as the tie of the round, but I know where I'd rather be…

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Sébastien Blanchard in Montpellier:
Arsenal
are unbeaten in eight games in France against French teams. When reminded of this statistic during yesterday's press conference in Montpellier, the Gunners' coach Arsène Wenger said he hoped they can maintain this streak tonight against the French champions. But he also added that he had bad memories of the only defeat his team sustained in France. This was in 2006 and a 2-1 defeat to FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League final in Paris at the Stade de France.

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Marcos Prieto in Madrid:
Real Madrid have scored in 13 consecutive UEFA Champions League matches. In that run, the Merengues have clocked up ten wins, two draws and a defeat, scoring 36 goals and conceding only ten.

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Türker Tozar in Istanbul:
Twelve Galatasaray players are set to make their Champions League debuts this season: Selçuk İnan, Fernando Muslera, Engin Baytar, Semih Kaya, Dany Nounkeu, Çağlar Birinc, Ceyhun Gülselam, Ufuk Ceylan, Emre Çolak, Yekta Kurtuluş, Umut Bulut and Hakan Balta. Brazilian defender Cris is Galatasaray's most experienced player in the UEFA Champions League with 58 appearances. Emmanuel Eboué and Hamit Altıntop follow him with 48 and 27 outings respectively.

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Dmitri Rogovitski in Moscow:
Spartak Moskva flew to Spain on Tuesday morning together with three players who are certain to miss the game against Barcelona. Sergei Parshivlyuk and Nicolas Pareja are both injured while Demi de Zeeuw will serve a one-match suspension. All of them will support their team-mates from the stands of the Camp Nou.

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Alex O'Henley in Glasgow:
Celtic have just confirmed that Olympic silver medallist and Hoops fan, Michael Jamieson, will be a special guest at Celtic Park tomorrow for the Group G opener against Benfica. Jamieson, whose 200m breaststroke swimming final was screened live on the big screens before Celtic's UEFA Champions League third round qualifying tie against HJK Helsinki, will take a bow on the pitch at half-time.

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Ian Holyman in Montpellier:
Montpellier
coach René Girard is hoping former player, Olivier Giroud, gets a lukewarm reception this evening when he returns to the club with whom he won the Ligue 1 title: "Olivier left a good image behind him, he battled honestly for the club. The fans will welcome him as he deserves, but I hope not too much. Just a little 'Hello' and then the serious business starts."

 

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Robin van Persie and Paul Scholes training at Manchester United's Carrington complex this morning

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Paul Bryan in Madrid (@UEFAcomPaulB): 
Perhaps in any other country, or even any other city, the speculation surrounding a man and a team that had as recently as last May broken Barcelona's stranglehold on Liga by producing a season of unprecedented numbers, would seem nonsensical. This, however, is Madrid and tonight's visit of Manchester City has many here believing that a defeat for the locals would be nothing short of a disaster. "Real Madrid are on the precipice," warns Spanish daily El País. "One slip-up tonight and this season will already begin looking like one in free-fall."

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Dmitri Rogovitski in Moscow:
If there wasn't already enough pressure on Zenit since their summer spending splurge, Russian daily Sport-Express has turned up the heat with a call to arms. "Málaga have started the campaign well and they will have home advantage but that cannot be used as an excuse if Zenit fail away from home," it reads. "Zenit cannot become victims of their big spending. People expect and if they fail to get a result their reputation will suffer."

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Viktor Sharafudinov at the Donbass Arena: 
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu was in bullish mood this morning as he spoke to the media ahead of Wednesday's meeting with Nordsjælland. "We have been preparing ourselves for tomorrow's match for ten months, since the defeat at home by Porto that ended our chances of reaching the knockout stages," he said. "We believe in our strengths, and I dare to say that Shakhtar will play more attractive football than any of our opponents in the group [completed by Chelsea and Juventus]. Nordsjælland have a lot in common with us and shift from defence to attack as we do. We are similar with set pieces and many other aspects. Perhaps Nordsjælland's only major shortcoming is their lack of Champions League experience, which can be vital."

 

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Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge: 
It has been 122 days since Chelsea made history at the Fußball Arena München – defeating Bayern on penalties to become the first team from London to be crowned European champions, and the first new winners of the famous trophy in 15 years. In just over 24 hours time, UEFA Champions League football returns to the capital, and by the looks of things, the Blues who now sit proudly among an elite group, look ready to welcome Juventus and begin the defence of their title.

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Alex O'Henley in Glasgow: 
The Daily Record has spoken to Benfica's Pablo Aimar who insists the Eagles haven't been taken in by Celtic's stuttering start to their domestic league campaign. The Hoops have only taken a point from their last two Scottish Premier League fixtures and currently languish in fifth place, their worst start to a league campaign since 1998, but the Argentinian playmaker expects a different Celtic side to turn up on Wednesday.

 

"Celtic always change their level, especially at home in the Champions League and I expect them to be far more dangerous when they play us," said the 32-year-old, who knows Celtic Park well having played there before for Benfica and Valencia. "We're convinced we can win in Scotland. We're technically a better side than Celtic and we're going there for victory. The key for us is to score the first goal."

 

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Carlos Jorge Santos in Braga:
The omens look good for Braga tomorrow evening, according to Portuguese daily O Jogo, whose research underpins a positive trend in results following an international break. Over the past two seasons, José Peseiro's charges have returned to UEFA Champions League action with six wins and three defeats, including 2-0 successes against Arsenal and Partizan in the 2010/11 edition of the competition. Meanwhile, A Bola pays tribute to Braga captain Alan, the only player to have appeared in all of their UEFA Champions League fixtures.

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Andy James in Dortmund (@UEFAcomAndyJ):
Though they trail Bayern in the early Bundesliga standings, reigning champions Dortmund have rediscovered their swagger since returning from the recent international break. Incredibly, some were already beginning to question whether Jürgen Klopp's side could maintain their domestic dominance after one lacklustre display in the 1-1 draw with 1. FC Nuremberg on Matchday 2, a knee-jerk reaction accentuated by Bayern's record-breaking start to the season.

However, die Schwarzgelben showed any such talk is nonsense with a whirlwind 3-0 victory over UEFA Europa League contestants Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the weekend. Now the challenge for Dortmund is to finally show the rest of the continent what German fans already know they're capable of. If they can, perennial heavyweights Bayern might not be the only Bundesliga club with eyes for Europe's biggest prize this term.

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Vassiliki Papantonopoulou in Athens:
Ask any player and they will tell you that UEFA Champions League evenings are uniquely special and deeply inspiring. Olympiacos forward Rafik Djebbour provided a moment of levity when he attempted to explain the difference between the domestic and European scene. "Physiologically there is a huge difference, in the preparation and during the game. The emotions are overwhelming. It is certainly different to playing in the league," he said. "The league is the equivalent to a fairly pretty girl but the Champions League is a supermodel!"

 

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Daniel Lerche in Munich:
Despite their imperious Bundesliga form, Bayern captain Philipp Lahm insists his side's season starts tomorrow. “We are very confident following our strong start to the season but tomorrow is when it really matters," said the Germany international. "We are really looking forward to it and we are desperate to do well in this season’s competition. We have a great squad and everbody is eager to get going. I think we are even better than last season. We have quality in every single position."

 

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Nick Aitken in Manchester: 
Redemption was the overriding theme of Manchester United's press conference as they seek to rectify last season's chastening group stage exit. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson underlined the importance of "not being as careless as we were last season", while striker Javier Hernández voiced the players' determination "not to make the same mistakes again".

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Paul Bryan in Madrid (@UEFAcomPaulB):
The majority of Spain's publications predict Madrid midfielder Luka Modrić will start ahead of what many see as an out of form Mesut Özil against City tonight. The Croatian international has impressed in the Spanish capital since his recent arrival from Tottenham Hotspur FC with whom he played seven times in the Premier League against tonight's opponents with a record of W3 D1 L3. Among those games was Spurs' 1-0 victory away to City in May 2010 that helped them to UEFA Champions League qualification at their opponents' expense.

 

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Matthew Spiro in Paris (@UEFAcomMattS): 
It's a grey overcast day in the French capital but excitement is building ahead of PSG's return to the UEFA Champions League. Eight years on from their last appearance, much has changed at the Parc des Princes: the modern-day PSG is blessed with an array of international stars, including Zlatan Ibrahimović, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Thiago Silva and Javier Pastore - as well as current French internationals like Jérémy Ménez and Mamadou Sakho.

They are expected to carry the French flag with style in Europe this season - a sentiment reflected in this morning's papers. 'Europe is waiting for Paris', suggest the headline on L'Equipe's front page. Meanwhile, France Football magazine's cover asks: 'Who is afraid of PSG?' It could all go flat if the Parisians slip up against Dynamo Kyiv tonight of course, but around 40,000 fans will be travelling to the ground later with confidence and anticipation levels higher than ever before.

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Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge:
Somewhat unusually for a group stage game, Chelsea have opted to hold their pre-match press conference at the stadium tonight – usually an option only taken up by the visiting team, or by the home side for the latter stages of the competition. The European champions will also train here tonight (instead of at their training base in Cobham) in another move away from the protocol of previous seasons. The first press conference will get underway in just under two hours, and Chelsea's coach Roberto Di Matteo will be joined by midfielder John Obi Mikel. The Juventus press conference then follows at 18.30CET.

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Steffen Potter in Frankfurt
Schalke coach Huub Stevens has been blessed with a plethora of talent at his disposal, according to German daily Ruhr Nachrichten. "You have to envy Huub Stevens at this moment. The mood in the Schalke camp is great and things on the pitch are going well. His only dilemma is who to leave out," it reads. "Jefferson Farfán should return to the starting lineup, while Lewis Holtby, Julian Draxler and new signing Ibrahim Afellay will all be pushing for starting berths and all offer distinct qualities."

 

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David Crossan in Zagreb: 
There is a mood of quiet optimism on the streets of Zagreb this afternoon. Chastened by last season's disastrous group stage campaign, in which a record 22 goals were leaked, the Dinamo supporters I've spoken to nevertheless believe this season will turn out differently. "Porto are not Real Madrid," is something you hear frequently. Dinamo produced their best performance on matchday one last season, going down 1-0 at home to Madrid.

A similar display – together with a positive result against the 2004 UEFA Champions League winners – and the 10,000-plus fans who have taken advantage of the reductions being offered by the club for the three-game home UEFA Champions League "pack" will leave the Stadion Maksimir contented souls.

Porto may not have played a club match for 17 days but a lot has happened in that time. Star forward Hulk was sold to Zenit and eight Porto players were on international duty at the start of September. Coach Vitor Pereira says nothing has changed in the 'post-Hulk era', although 21-year-old James Rodriguez served notice of his intent to become the team's talisman with sparkling performances for Colombia in their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying wins against Chile and Uruguay.

 

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Claire Gray at Celtic Park: 
Celtic 
coach Neil Lennon is evidently relishing the prospect of a partisan home crowd for tomorrow's group stage opener against Benfica, and the former Hoops player knows only too well how big a role the Parkhead faithful could play. "When the music starts and the roar goes up from the crowd it just elevates you to a different place completely," he said.

 

Midfielder Kris Commons added: "We're looking to try and stamp our authority on the game early doors. There's nothing like playing at home and it's a great chance to get some points on the board. If we can get three points then magic, but if not we'll be looking to get one and try and get the ball rolling.

 

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Andy James in Dortmund (@UEFAcomAndyJ):
It will be interesting to see what Dortmund have learned since last season's UEFA Champions League campaign. The 1997 winners went into the competition carrying a weight of expectation following the first of two successive Bundesliga titles, but Jürgen Klopp’s precocious young team clearly lacked experience at this level and finished bottom of a group which many had expected them to progress from including Arsenal, Olympique de Marseille and Olympiacos.

BVB's elimination last term was a consequence failure to win either of their two matches against Marseille and losing away to Olympiacos, rightly or wrongly labelled the weakest team in the group. This time round the same could be said of Ajax – almost laughable when you consider the Eredivisie champions' illustrious history, but in a group also containing Real Madrid and Manchester City, some way understandable. Indeed, if Dortmund are to progress to the knockout stages, points against Ajax are a must, especially at home, making tonight’s opening encounter all the more important.

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Graham Hunter in Málaga:
Hanging, heavy grey clouds in Málaga means that tonight's match at La Rosaleda is going to be hot, sweaty work for the players when the UEFA Champions League debutants host Zenit. But Málaga winger Joaquín, who is about to become only the second Spaniard to play in this competition for three different Liga clubs (Miquel Soler with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Mallorca being the other) points out than an occasion like this seemed very unlikely during the club's stormy summer in financial terms. "Right now things are better but what we have been through recently has been very tough indeed," the Andalucian told El Pais. "Only the massive professionalism shown by the squad and technical staff has sustained us but the most important figure has been the coach. Without him it could all have come apart."

 

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Lucy Turner at Camp Nou: 
Barcelona
coach Tito Vilanova has so far managed expectations with unwavering stoicism and he showed no signs of neglecting his ice-cool temperament in today's pre-match press conference. "It's too early to talk about a final at Wembley," said the 44-year-old, who has guided the Catalan club to four successive Liga victories in peerless fashion. "We will take each game as it comes and our first ambition is to get through the group stage. I have been at this club for years and I know how important this competition is to the players and the fans. Last season was unfortunate but sometimes football is cruel."

 

Spanish international Thiago Alcántara added: "I think the Champions League is the most important competition and our immediate aim is to win every group game. It is a special competition to play in and we cherish every moment of it."

 

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Nick Aitken in Manchester:
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Manchester United stalwart Ryan Giggs singled out summer signing Shinji Kagawa ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League opener at Old Trafford. "Shinji is the kind of player who will thrive in Europe, where possession is key," said the 38-year-old. "He keeps the ball and gets into positions where he is hard to pick up. He'll be a very good addition," added the Welshman, whose sentiments were echoed by Sir Alex Ferguson at today’s pre-match press conference: "We’re very pleased with him [Kagawa], and I think he's going to be a very important player for us."

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Matthew Spiro at Parc des Princes (UEFAcomMattS):
Large crowds have already gathered in and around the bars that surround the Porte de Saint-Cloud metro station, just a couple of hundred metres from the Parc des Princes. PSG supporters have had a difficult few years, but the club's fortunes have been turned around dramatically in the last year and there is sure to be a party atmosphere inside the ground come kick-off. Until recently, few could have imagined that a player of Zlatan Ibrahimović's standing might sign for the two-time French champions.

The Sweden striker is already omnipresent in the French capital, from the many replica shirts with his name that have been sold, to the giant 'Ibra' poster in the window of the club shop that looks down on the bustling Champs Elysées. If Ibrahimović has been a marketing success already, he has also made a brilliant start to life in Ligue 1. The next test for PSG and their marquee signing starts tonight.

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Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge:
Chelsea made history by becoming the first London club to claim the UEFA Champions League last season but the time has come to tuck that feat away into the record books, as John Obi Mikel explained in the post-match press conference at Stamford Bridge. "Last season everyone knew how important it was for us – as players and as a club as well," said the Nigeria midfielder. "It was really good to finish the way we finished by winning the trophy – we want to build on that, we don't want to stop and tomorrow is hopefully going to be the start of us winning the title again.

 

"I think Real Madrid and Barcelona are going to be favourites, but it was what happened last season when we played Barcelona – everyone wrote us off before the game. We showed everyone how much the Champions League means to us and we want to retain it. Hopefully we can build on it and tomorrow is the start of it. We want to go far in this tournament."

 

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Berend Scholten from Lille:
BATE coach Viktor Goncharenko is wary of the threat former Ligue 1 champions LOSC pose but has challenged his players to express themselves in tomorrow night's Group F encounter in France. "Lille are a very good team and we have to be aware of that," said the 33-year-old. "They have not had a great start to the Ligue 1 season but they will raise their game for the Champions League. I hope the players will play with free spirit and without pressure. We are very organised and if we play our best football we can match anybody in the the group."

 

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Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge:
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been speaking about the unity of the side ahead of their UEFA Champions League opener at Chelsea. "I think the main difference with the arrival of the new coach and the new technical team in this second year is that we have better knowledge of the system and we are also more conscious of what we can do," he said. "I think before in Europe we have based our strength on individuality. We had a group of 15-20 really good players, but we also relied on that one player that could change the match around."

 

"Now I think we are more solid as a group, we think in the same way, and I think in Europe if you have this advantage it can even be more positive than before. Obviously we are an emerging team at the moment – we have a lot of young players but they are coming up strongly – it's a team with a great future. Regardless of the fact that you need experience in the Champions League, we also take into consideration that many of our players have played a lot of international games, and they are very experienced and confident."

 

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That's all from the blog today. You can follow all of tonight's UEFA Champions League group stage openers in our Live MatchCentre. Make sure you stay with UEFA.com after their conclusion for all the post-match reaction and video highlights.

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Welcome back after an enthralling slew of opening UEFA Champions League group stage fixtures. Today our dedicated team of reporters from across the continent will continue to bring you unparalleled coverage of European club football's premier competition as we brace ourselves for another night of group stage action. 

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You can watch all Tuesday's UEFA Champions League goals on UEFA.com.

 

Which goal was your favourite? Get in touch with us via Twitter @ChampionsLeague using #ChampionsLeague

 

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Lucy Turner at Camp Nou
Spartak face a mountainous task when they take on Barcelona at Camp Nou this evening but coach Unai Emery sounded a defiant note about his side's chances in yesterday's pre-match press conference. "We have come here with the idea of winning, we know they are favourites in the group but we're not going to let any chances slip away to try and beat the toughest team," said the former Valencia CF coach. "I have never beaten Barcelona but it isn't easy and not many coaches have done it."

 

Spanish midfielder José Manuel Jurado added: "We know it's a tough match, but if you are scared before you start the match, then you won't achieve much at all. The important thing is to be strong in defence, everyone knows what they have to offer. Barcelona will have a lot of ball possession and we know that."

 

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Vassiliki Papantonopoulou in Athens
Olympiacos' lacklustre showing against Schalke has been ruthlessly pulled apart by various sects of the media. GoalNews writes "Oympiacos showed, that compared to last season, they lack various elements and that it will be very tough to reach the same level of defensive cohesion." SportDay stresses that the Greek champions have "a long way to go", while Fos Ton Spor adds: "Olympiacos started the group stage with a defeat but the performance was even worse than the result."

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UEFA.com French newsdesk: 
French daily Midi Libre hails a "history night" for UEFA Champions League debutants Montpellier despite their 2-1 home defeat by Arsenal. Pandemonium ensued inside La Mosson when Younès Belhanda's audacious spot kick eluded Vito Mannone but their joy was short-lived after the Gunners responded with quick-fire goals from Lukas Podolski and Gervinho. L'Équipe, meanwhile, revels in PSG's imperious display against Dynamo Kyiv, writing: "It was a reunion worth waiting for. PSG have been craving Champions League football for eight years and what a great way to return!"

 

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Lucy Turner in Barcelona:
Alexis Sánchez could make his long-awaited return to UEFA Champions League action this evening after taking part in yesterday's training session, despite failing to receive medical clearance following a muscle injury. Jordi Alba and Andrés Iniesta miss out, however, after failing fitness tests, while fledgling talents Christian Tello and Gerard Deulofeu have both been included in Tito Vilanova's squad.

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Graham Hunter in Barcelona: 
The UEFA Champions League awakes passions right across Europe but both the Camp Nou public and Tito Vilanova's playing staff seem to reserve something special for the nights when the Champions hymn blasts out of the stadium speakers. However, the fact that this year's tournament culminates at Wembley in London, where Barça has won two of its four European Cups, absolutely guarantees that there will be particular motivation this season. The Catalan media know this very well and, for example, the colourful 'splash' front page image for Diario Sport is of Lionel Messi at Wembley in 2011 holding the trophy in one arm and using three fingers to indicate the number of times he's won this competition. Headline? Operación Wembley (3)

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Berend Scholten from Lille:
LOSC summer signing Salomon Kalou knows what it's like to taste UEFA Champions League glory and the Ivorian forward, who is bred for the big occasion, hopes his experience can rub off on some of his verdant team-mates. "Maybe I have more experience in European competition than other players in the team but that can only help them," said the 27-year-old. "Everyone here is at a high level and we have worked seriously hard to be prepared for the game. We are taking our opponents very seriously and to get three points would be a massive boost for our confidence."

 

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Andy James en route to Munich (@UEFAcomAndyJ): 
After Dortmund and Schalke did Germany proud on Tuesday evening, Bayern will be hoping to make it a Bundesliga treble in Munich, destination for tonight's Group F match against Valencia. Spirits are high in the Bavarian capital following a record start to the domestic campaign and I'm certainly looking forward to returning to the Fuβball Arena München, although I'm anticipating a strange atmosphere for both fans and players prior to kick-off.

 

Of course the last UEFA Champions League night in Munich was the 'Finale dahoam' – what was supposed to be Bayern's crowning glory on home turf last May. We all remember how that transpired and I can still picture the stunned silence around me as Chelsea's Didier Drogba rolled in the decisive spot kick to ruin what would have been the biggest party in Munich over in a decade. According to the players, the anguish of that defeat has been processed over the summer and judging by their performances in the league so far, you'd tend to believe them.

 

Tonight's opponents also bring back fond memories. Bayern beat Valencia on penalties in the 2001 final to win their fourth European crown, although the current side are more likely to be having visions of last season’s traumatic showpiece when the anthem sounds shortly before 20.45 CET.

 

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Graham Hunter in Barcelona:
Barça have begun a UEFA Champions League campaign at home on eight previous occasions and it has suited them well. The stats are that the Catalan club has won seven and drawn one of those group stage openers. The list includes wins over Galatasaray AŞ, Leeds FC, Olympique Lyonnais, Sporting Clube de Portugal, Panathinaikos FC, Club Brugge KV and PFC Levski Sofia with the only draw coming at this stage last season 2-2 against Milan. FC Spartak Moskva will be Barcelona's first Russian opening opponent at the Camp Nou.

 

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UEFA.com Italian newsdesk: 
Turin-based daily Tuttosport focus on Gianluigi Buffon, who will make his 400th appearance for the Old Lady against Chelsea this evening. "Some of us are in a hurry to win this competition!" said the 34-year-old goalkeeper. "We are eager to make our mark and go as far as possible." Arturo Vidal, meanwhile, has been identified as the Bianconeri's main man by the same newspaper. "He will have to limit [Eden] Hazard and spearhead the majority of Juve's attacks," it writes.

 

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Paul Bryan in Braga:
CFR
were in jovial mood this morning as they stepped out of their hotel and into the bright Braga sunshine. Prior to undertaking a pre-morning stretch on the poolside lawn, many of the visiting players couldn't resist exchanging goes on a nearby see-saw. Much hilarity ensued but the frolics were soon cut short when coach Ioan Andone loomed into view, arms folded. The 52-year-old former Romania international wants his players fully focused ahead of what he predicted would be a "very hard game against a strong  Braga] team," tonight.

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Dmitri Rogovitski from Moscow:
Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti felt the full brunt of the Russian press this morning following his side's harrowing 3-0 defeat by Málaga. "Call an ambulance" reads the headline of Evgeni Lovchev's column in Sovetskiy Sport. He continues: "There was no leader in the team who stood up to the test. As a result the team were completely out-played. Zenit's defensive problems were there for all to see and it's a deep-lying problem which must be solved."

 

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Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge:
I have arrived at Chelsea's west London home ahead of their first UEFA Champions League match since the dramatic victory in Munich 123 days ago. While the streets around the ground are calm now, expect a very different atmosphere in a few hours – as the Blues welcome one of the game's most iconic clubs to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have confirmed they are expecting a capacity crowd tonight and Juventus, making their first appearance in the competition for three years, have also taken up their full allocation. It looks as though it will be a perfect evening for football too – clear blue skies at the moment, with mild and dry conditions expected for kick-off, in just under seven hours time. Let the countdown commence...

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Chris Burke en route to Lille: 
The arrival of visitors from the east at the dawn of a new UEFA Champions League campaign has inevitably stirred memories of last season for LOSC. The French side welcomed PFC CSKA Moskva as they opened their bid in 2011/12 and all looked to be going smoothly when they led 2-0 with 18 minutes to go, only for Seydou Doumbia to wedge a spanner into the works with a late double that denied them a precious opening victory. Rudi Garcia's men never recovered from that misstep and went on to finish bottom of their group, a lesson they are anxious to learn from this time around. Indeed, a win tonight would represent their first ever on matchday one - and at the fifth time of asking. With Valencia and Bayern yet to come in Group F, LOSC can ill afford another sluggish start.

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Galatasaray players sample the Old Trafford turf ahead of their Group H encounter with Manchester United. The Turkish champions are making their first UEFA Champions League group stage appearance since 2006/07.

 

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Nick Aitken from Manchester:
In bizarre weather conditions in Manchester, where early morning torrential rain has, for the moment, given way to bright sunshine, season-ticket holder Ziad Raad braved the elements to sample the matchday atmosphere around Old Trafford. "I can see us winning comfortably, with a hat-trick from Robin van Persie," said Raad, who has come all the way from Cyprus for tonight's match against Turkish champions Galatasaray. "That said, I think a good start is going to be key, so we need to get a couple of goals by half-time. I've also heard rumours [Wayne] Rooney might be fit enough to be on the bench, so hopefully he can come on and grab a couple too," he added. 

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Alex O'Henley in Glasgow: 
Celtic
will be hoping it's a case of seventh time lucky tonight as they prepare to host Benfica in Glasgow. Despite their impressive home record which boasts just one defeat in 18 group stage matches, the Hoops have never won the first game of their previous six campaigns. The only time Celtic have avoided defeat in their opening tie was four years ago when they drew 0-0 with Danish side Aalborg BK at home. Every other opening game has been lost – Juventus (A) 2001, Bayern (A) 2003, Barcelona (H) 2004 – their only home defeat – Manchester United (A) 2006 and Shakhtar (A) 2007.

 

Having played in those games and with captain Scott Brown likely to be the only player with group stage experience in tonight's starting lineup, manager Neil Lennon knows the importance of getting off to a winning start. "It's important we make the most of our home advantage," admits Lennon. "But we will have to start well if we are to make inroads against Benfica who on current form are probably favourites for this game. They have an excellent forward line and have experience of playing at this level, which we don't. We have to be careful we don't get picked off if we are going to press Benfica."

 

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Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge: 
Speaking ahead of tonight's encounter, revered goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was keen to emphasise that while his Juventus side may lack UEFA Champions League know-how, experience elsewhere means they enter the competition full of belief. "Obviously we are an emerging team at the moment – we have a lot of young players but they are coming up strongly – it's a team with a great future."

 

Indeed, the 34-year-old goalkeeper is one of just six players with more than ten appearances in the competition – and part of a squad with 12 who have never figured in the UEFA Champions League group stage before. "We also take into consideration that many of our players have played a lot of international games, and they are very experienced and confident. I think you can probably put that sort of experience on the same level," he added.

 

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Andy James en route to Munich (@UEFAcomAndyJ):
Flicking through the papers at Dortmund airport en route to tonight's game in Munich and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung focuses on Bayern striker Mario Mandžukić, who is set to make his UEFA Champions League debut against Valencia in the absence of Mario Gomez. 'Super Mario II', as he’s named in the headline, "is making good progress" for his new employers having netted five goals in his opening four appearances since arriving from VfL Wolfsburg over the summer. His namesake Gomez is also making steps, the paper jokes, "but only on the treadmill".

 

According to Bild, record signing Javi Martínez played alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger in defensive midfield with the rest of the apparent starting 11 in training yesterday and could be set to make his full Bayern debut. That would be a harsh blow for fellow screener Luiz Gustavo, who has been in excellent form of late. Perhaps even more surprising, however, is that five-goal striker Mario Mandžukić was also absent from the 'A-team', replaced by veteran Claudio Pizarro in attack.

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Chris Burke in Lille: 
I've arrived in Lille where there's a noticeable autumn chill insinuating itself into everyone's afternoons, even if the sun is clenching his fists and making a decent scrap of it. The lugubrious cemetery outside my hotel window only adds to the sense of winter slowly closing in, but for LOSC the theme this season is very much rebirth. Prized playmaker Eden Hazard's departure this summer left the team without yet another member of the side that clinched the Ligue 1 title in 2010/11, and while they have sorely lacked his explosive creativity this term, it was always going to be difficult replacing the Belgian international.

 

Crucially, Les Dogues responded with the biggest transfer outlay in their history, paying an initial €10m for Marvin Martin – of whom much will be expected against BATE. And the former FC Sochaux-Montbéliard midfielder unpacked his bags as the final coat of paint was drying at LOSC's new home, the Grand Stade Lille Métropole. A 50,000-seater venue conceived to help the club reach a new level on the domestic and European stage, the Grand Stade is a far cry – if only 2km geographically – from their temporary lodging of the previous eight years, the 18,000-seater Stadium Nord.

 

As club president Michel Seydoux told Le Figaro today, "We've moved from a bedsit to a huge apartment." The relocation has been accompanied by a rush to pick up season tickets, with 30,000 fans making the commitment, while the club have also changed name – from LOSC Lille Métropole to LOSC Lille – and redesigned their logo. The likes of Hazard, Yohan Cabaye, Gervinho and Moussa Sow may still be missed, but Les Dogues are learning new tricks.

 

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Carlos Santos in Braga:
José Peseiro appealed to the fans to fill the stadium today, after watching Portugal attract 30,000 to create a fantastic atmosphere in Braga. But tonight the club are expecting 12,000 home fans, while CFR expect 100 to cheer the visitors. Around 70 media are attending this match. Also, just to kill some curiosity, Braga will play in their traditional kit and Cluj with their third kit, meaning green shirt, black shorts and socks.

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FC Barcelona's Andrés Iniesta (yes, he's injured tonight) and Lionel Messi tell UEFA.com about life under Tito Vilanova, last seaon's UEFA Champions League elimination and the extra motivation of a final at Wembley.

 

 

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Trevor Haylett in London:
Chelsea FC won all six home games last season en route to lifting the trophy for the first time. Another victory tonight against Juventus will equal their best ever run in the UEFA Champions League: they won seven in succession spanning the 2007/08 and 2008/09 campaigns. Their record run of home wins in Europe stands at eight. Starting with their first-ever competitive game at Stamford Bridge against continental opposition, a Inter-Cities Fairs Cup first round clash against København on 4 November 1958, they posted eight wins before the run came to an end with a 0-0 draw against Amsterdam in the second round of the 1968/69 Fairs Cup.

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Paul Bryan (@UEFAcomPaulB) in Braga:
Portuguese daily A Bola reminds its readers of SC Braga coach José Peseiro's order to his players ahead of this evening's encounter at home to CFR. "Go out to win," says the headline which is accompanied by a photo of the man who led Braga into their second UEFA Champions League group stage appearance with a play-off victory against Udinese Calcio.

Os Arsenalistas' next home game after tonight doesn't come until next November, leading to Peseiro's demand for the perfect start ahead of tough trips to Galatasaray AŞ and Manchester United FC.

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Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge:
Despite being the only coach in Chelsea’s history to guide his team to UEFA Champions League glory, tonight Roberto Di Matteo takes charge of the Blues as permanent coach for the first time in the competition – and in his pre-match programme notes, he is clearly relishing the contest ahead. “Juventus come here as champions of Italy, unbeaten in 42 games, and we know they are a very difficult opponent for us to begin our Champions League campaign. But we have also shown our mental strength time and time again over the course of this year and I think this will be a very competitive game – the kind of match that makes the Champions League great.” 

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©uefa.com

 A Juve fan introduces himself to some Chelsea greats

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Claire Gray at Celtic Park:
The supporters are already starting to arrive at Celtic Park, and the burger vans are doing a fair bit of business in the early evening sunshine. Let’s hope those decked out in green and white are building up their strength, as Hoops coach Neil Lennon has re-emphasised in his programme notes just how big a role the fans will play tonight, as they look to get their Group G campaign off to a flying start against Benfica: “Celtic Park is renowned as one of the best venues in football, and a number of top players have commented on it. The atmosphere that our supporters generate on these nights really is second to none, and it has been a real source of inspiration to the team in the past. I am sure that will be the case again tonight.”

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Richard van Poortvliet (@UEFAcomRichVP) in Donetsk:
It's a beautiful warm autumnal day in the Donbass region of Ukraine, with the temperature currently in the mid-20s. However, the pressure is on for the hosts Shakhtar Donetsk. The Pitmen may have only ever lost twice in the UEFA Champions League at the Donbass Arena, though they have to go back to 8 March 2011 for their last victory at home in this competition, when they beat AS Roma 3-0 to move through to the quarter-finals. They will be buoyed though by their excellent start to the Ukrainian Premier League, which has seen them win their first nine matches. Meanwhile it will be a memorable night for the visitors, Nordsjælland, who will be making their Champions League debut and they’ll be hoping to extend the Ukrainian champions' winless streak at home to five matches.

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Alex O'Henley (@UEFAcomAlexO) at Celtic Park
I've just taken my seat in the Celtic Park press box for tonight’s Group G opener between Celtic and Benfica. It's been a day of autumn sunshine and showers here in Glasgow but the pitch looks perfect and should make for a fast-paced game tonight. Both sides put the accent on attacking football, so we should be in for an entertaining evening's football. Benfica are still looking for their first goal at Celtic Park while the Hoops have yet to record an opening game victory in this their seventh Champions League group stage campaign.

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Jeremy Inson from Stamford Bridge:
Juventus fans are in good voice on their return to the UEFA Champions League as they walk along a sun-bathed Fulham Broadway to Stamford Bridge. They are breaking out their favourite numbers - notably to their captain Gianluigi Buffon and even the Italian national anthem, while locals watch on from rooftops and doorways.

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Chris Burke (@UEFAcomChrisB) in Lille:                       
The big selection question for LOSC coach Rudi Garcia is who he will start at the head of their 4-2-3-1 formation – Túlio De Melo or Nolan Roux? Neither player has found form so far this season, with Roux yet to score and De Melo finding the target just once, though it was his goal against FC København in the play-offs, created by Roux, that stamped LOSC's group stage ticket. The French side are somewhat light in the strike department, having failed to lure Kevin Gameiro from Paris Saint-Germain FC, but they will need one of their forwards to take greater responsibility soon.

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While Chris was tweeting that, I was just looking at the clock in the office and I think it's about time to direct you to our UEFA Champions League MatchCentre for all the latest from every game courtesy of our reporting team in all eight stadiums.

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Alex O'Henley (@UEFAcomAlexO) at Celtic Park
Former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan has given an interview for tonight's match programme in which he says he holds the UEFA Champions League in higher esteem than the FIFA World Cup. "It's a tournament that's better than the World Cup finals as all the top players in the world play in the UEFA Champions League," says the man who led the Hoops to the last 16 of the competition on two occasions during his time in charge at Celtic Park. "It has the best players, the best stadiums in the world and the best supporters. So you put all that together and you have a night that can't be matched anywhere else." High praise indeed!

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The action has begun across Europe and in the UEFA.com MatchCentre.

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UEFA.com London newsdesk
It is rougly halfway through the first period in tonight's matchday one games and the big story so far is the 2-0 lead FC BATE Borisov have at LOSC Lille. FC Barcelona are 1-0 up at home against FC Spartak Moskva while Manchester United FC and CFR 1907 Cluj have also snuck in front. Follow our detailed coverage in the MatchCentre and show how confident you are your team will win in our Confidence Meter game (on the right of this page).

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UEFA.com London newsdesk
It is half-time in all eight matches and BATE have increased their lead at LOSC. They are now three to the good, while CFR are also up away from home, winning 2-0 at Braga. Elsewhere, European champions Chelsea FC are in front against Juventus, with Oscar scoring two long-range efforts, fellow English side Manchester United FC are also in front but Barcelona are being held by Spartak Moskva. Follow all the action in the MatchCentre.

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UEFA.com London newsdesk
That man Lionel Messi has come to Barcelona's rescue at Camp Nou, levelling their opener with Spartak Moskva at 2-2 while CFR and BATE hold two-goal leads away from home. Chelsea are holding on at home to Juventus, while Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester United, who have missed a penalty, are still in charge in front of their fans.

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UEFA.com London newsdesk
The matchday one action has concluded. Stay with UEFA.com for all the reaction.

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UEFA.com London newsdesk
Watch highlights of all Wednesday night's games on UEFA.com and return on Thursday morning for more reaction to matchday one of the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League.

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UEFA.com German newsdesk:
The German newspapers concentrated today on Bayern's first UEFA Champions League game since that loss against Chelsea FC in the final in their own Fußball Arena München. The Munich–based Münchner Merkur wrote: "So works the process of coming to terms with the past. FC Bayern showed that they are in no case traumatised by the loss in the last Champions League match, in the final at home against Chelsea."

Bild concentrated on German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, who had missed the decisive penalty against Chelsea in May and scored yesterday the first goal for Bayern. It titled: "Schweinsteiger fires the final frustration away. One hundred and twenty-three days before he had missed the penalty against Chelsea. This goal is balm for his soul."

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Gerard Piqué of Barcelona has been ruled out for Barcelona's 2 October trip to Benfica and the Real Madrid game five days later with the ankle injury he suffered in yesterday's defeat of Spartak Moskva. More to follow on UEFA.com, while there is better news for him today as it has been revealed that Shakira is expecting his first child...

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UEFA.com French newsdesk, Paris:
Local newspaper La Voix du Nord have tough words this morning to describe the "failure" of LOSC in their first groupe stage outing at Grand Stade de Lille. "Lille wanted to launch their bid to reach the last 16 of the Champions League in style with a win over BATE, seen as the weakest in Group F. It's a failure. The Belarusians destroyed LOSC in the first half and strolled to a 3-1 win."

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Paolo Menicucci, Italian newsdesk:
"Lions in London" is one of the headlines of the Turin-based newspaper Tuttosport after Juventus fought back from 2-0 down to 2-2 against reigning champions Chelsea. "The Bianconeri proved they are ready for a great Champions League campaign. Vidal was a warrior to stay on the pitch and score despite a troubled ankle. Substitute Quagliarella was decisive after replacing Giovinco".

La Stampa meanwhile plays with the name of Chelsea's goalscorer also saying that the Bianconeri could go for the trophy. "Juve among the Oscar candidates," it reads.

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UEFA.com Portuguese newsdesk, Lisbon:
After the goalless draw at Celtic FC last night the Portuguese press reported that the Lisbon side left Glasgow without a defeat for the first time but still haven’t scored a goal in four matches. “Benfica almost in heaven,” says A Bola. O Jogo adds: "Benfica started this season’s Champions League with a goalless draw in Glasgow against a Celtic that scared but didn’t have arguments for more."

With central defender and captain Luisão out due to a two-month suspension, his partner Ezequiel Garay shone says Record, with the headline: "Iron Eagle!” The Brazilian international travelled to Glasgow and didn’t speak to the media but left his impressions on his Twitter account, saying: “Congratulations to all my team-mates for today’s match, despite the draw! I’m proud of my team-mate! We are united!"

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 A happy Celtic player

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Peter Bruun, UEFA.com Danish newsdesk:
Ekstrabladet wrote of Denmark's debutants: "FC Nordsjælland fell with honour." Adding: "Tonight FC Nordsjælland looked like a team who can play a part in the Champions League. Only FC Barcelona and Porto have manged to win at the Donbass Area in Donetsk, and in spite of a moderate 2-0 defeat, FC Nordsjælland can be proud of their debut in the world's biggest club competition. Shakhtar tried to come steamrollering from the start, but a brilliantly and intellingently FCN team managed to hold on to the ball and to take the pace out of the game."

A more downbeat tv2.dk wrote: "The Danish champions provided a well structured and clever performance, but they were so toothless in attack that it was only logical that the Ukrainian favourites took the three points."

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Have a look at all our photo galleries for the week.

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Right, time to check on your Fantasy Football team - in line for PlayStation prizes?

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Who's on top of the standings after first week of Predictor?

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Become part of UEFA.com's growing social community
Join over three million fans on the official home of the UEFA Champions League on Faceook, follow us on Twiiter @ChampionsLeague or why not hang out at our Google Plus station.

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Steffen Potter from Frankfurt
Bayern's David Alaba has come one step closer to returning to full training. Two months after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot, he has run for the first time, taking in a 20 minute session on Friday. No date has been set for the return of the Austrian international, though.

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UEFA.com London newsdesk:
That is all for our live coverage in what has been an eventful first week in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League. We will be back with all the build-up to the second set of games from tomorrow morning.

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Dan Ross

Ian Holyman

John Atkin

Paul Saffer

@UEFAcomPaulS

Sam Crompton

Tom Kell

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Fan confidence

See how fans felt about their club on matchday 1

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Archive

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Standings

Last updated: 18/09/2013 11:59 CET

Legend:

P: Played   
Pts: Points   

Competition statistics

Matches played: 16

Goals scored
53 Total
3.31 Match average
Total attempts
406 Total
25.38 Match average
on target
242 Total
15.13 Match average
off target
164 Total
10.25 Match average
blocked
76 Total
4.75 Match average
against woodwork
14 Total
0.88 Match average
Corners
174 Total
10.88 Match average
Offsides
86 Total
5.38 Match average
Yellow cards
56 Total
3.5 Match average
Red Cards
1 Total
0.06 Match average
Fouls committed
432 Total
27 Match average
Fouls suffered
407 Total
25.44 Match average
Passes
17644 Total
1102.75 Match average
completed
13341 Total
833.81 Match average
Last updated: 16/12/2013 15:03 CET
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